Matt Kenseth confirmed for 10 more races by Roush Fenway Racing

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Roush Fenway Racing announced 10 more races in the No. 6 Ford for Matt Kenseth, who has been sharing the ride with Trevor Bayne since returning to the team in May.

After Bayne drives the car next weekend at Sonoma Raceway (June 24), Chicagoland Speedway (July 1) and Daytona International Speedway (July 7), Kenseth will return behind the wheel for the July 14 race at Kentucky Speedway. He also will drive the next three races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (July 22), Pocono Raceway (July 29) and Watkins Glen International (Aug. 5).

The remainder of the races announced Wednesday by the team for Kenseth are:

–Darlington, Sept. 2;

–Indianapolis, Sept. 9;

–Dover International Speedway, Oct. 7;

–Martinsville Speewday (Oct. 28);

–ISM Raceway (Nov. 11);

–Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 18)

According to the release, “additional races for Kenseth are still under consideration.”

A Roush spokesman confirmed Bayne would be in the car at Sonoma, Chicagoland and Daytona. Asked whether Bayne would drive the No. 6 in the other eight races that haven’t been announced this season, the spokesman said the team “was still sorting through the remainder of the schedule.”

Bayne is expected to be in the No. 6 when it’s sponsored by AdvoCare, which will be on the car at Sonoma and Chicagoland.

AdvoCare also is sponsoring the races at Michigan International Speedway (Aug. 12), Bristol Motor Speedway (Aug. 18), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 16), Charlotte Motor Speedway (Sept. 30), Kansas Speedway (Oct. 21) and Texas Motor Speedway (Nov. 4).

Kenseth has indicated he won’t drive in the restrictor-plate races, so Bayne likely will be in the car at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 14) along with Daytona.

 

NASCAR America: Winning Coca-Cola 600 is a memorable feat

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The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of NASCAR’s toughest events. Starting under the sun and finishing under the lights, every stock car driver wants to win it at least once – and 33 of NASCAR’s best can say they have.

It’s even more special when it marks the first time a driver has won at the top level.

“Everybody remembers the first time they do most things and obviously the first Cup win is something I’ll never forget,” Matt Kenseth said about his 2000 victory. “I caught Bobby Labonte and passed him with like 15 to go, or something like that, so it was obviously a very exciting day. You couldn’t pick a better one to win for your first one.”

Kenseth is one of seven drivers who won their first NASCAR race in the sport’s most grueling event. Notably, the driver he passed for the win that day won his first NASCAR race exactly five years earlier. Labonte won the 1995 edition of the Coke 600.

Last year, Austin Dillon added his name to the list.

“For me, it starts as a challenge from day one of the entire Speedweeks,” Landon Cassill said. “Because the industry is at home in Charlotte, when the fans come to town we get pulled in many directions.”

“For me, it was just kind of forgetting how long the race was and just focus on every lap,” Jeff Burton said. “If you make good lap times and you focus on getting a 100 percent out of the car every single lap, time goes by pretty quickly.”

Burton won two Coke 600s – in 1999 and 2001.

For more, watch the above video.

Matt Kenseth says ‘no problems’ with Trevor Bayne after a ‘good conversation’

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CONCORD, N.C. — Matt Kenseth will return to NASCAR this weekend at Kansas Speedway, and the driver he is at least temporarily replacing in the No. 6 Ford will be there, too.

In a Tuesday morning interview at Roush Fenway Racing, Kenseth told NBC Sports that he expects Trevor Bayne will be at Saturday night’s Cup race.

The two met in person Tuesday at the team’s shop for the weekly debrief, which Bayne commutes to from his home in Knoxville, Tennessee.

“I talked to Trevor on the phone the other day for half-hour or hour; had a good conversation with him,” Kenseth said. “Look forward to seeing him today.

“I think that he’s fine with me. We had a really good conversation, actually. I’m looking forward to working with both of them. If you’re another driver filling in, it’s obviously not the driver’s decision, it’s an ownership thing. So certainly I don’t think Trevor and I have any problems at all.”

The 2003 champion, who also had lunch with Roush teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. last week, has been confirmed in Bayne’s car for Kansas and the next week at the All-Star Race, but Roush hasn’t announced the No. 6 driver lineup for the rest of 2018.

According to two people with direct knowledge of the schedule but who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly, Kenseth will drive in at least the next five race weekends – Kansas, the All-Star Race, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway.

In an April 25 news conference to announce Kenseth’s return, Roush unveiled Wyndham Rewards/Wyndham Hotels as his sponsor for select races.

There is a one-week break in the schedule after Michigan before the circuit returns June 24 race at Sonoma Raceway. In February, Roush announced the No. 6 would be sponsored by AdvoCare at Sonoma and in the July 1 race at Chicagoland Speedway. Because of his tight relationship with AdvoCare, it’s expected Bayne will be in the car for those races.

Asked about his upcoming schedule, Kenseth said, “I’m running a good chunk right in a row, then it’s sporadic after that.”

Kansas will mark Kenseth’s first Cup race since finishing eighth in last year’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He joked “what rust?” when asked how he is preparing after missing the first 11 races of 2018, adding he hadn’t spent any time in a driving simulator for this weekend.

“I haven’t done anything,” he said. “I was thinking about doing the Xfinity test Monday (at Charlotte), but everything is just so different other than driving anyway.

“I’m not super worried about that. I guess things you probably worry about is being in a different (team) than I’ve been the last five years. Just everything fitting right, feeling the same. That type of thing. I’m used to having the same brake system, steering, same guy doing my interiors. All that stuff is probably what I worry about more than ‘rust.’ That’s a few laps, and it feels normal.”

But it probably is the longest stretch between races in more than 20 years for Kenseth since the 46-year-old was running Late Models in Wisconsin in the mid-1990s.

Kenseth, who drove at Roush from 1998-2012 before spending the past five seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing, also attended his first debrief with the team Tuesday.

“I’ve been reading a lot of notes and looking at a lot of stuff, so I’m somewhat up to speed,” he said. “As much as I can be without driving yet.”

A display of the car Matt Kenseth will drive at Kansas Speedway was in the Roush Fenway Racing museum Tuesday.

He said he wouldn’t be arriving with any setup or technical ideas from his last stop.

“I don’t have any of that stuff, and I wouldn’t bring it any way,” he said. “It’s not really the way I do things. Until you get in the car and get going and get a feel for everybody, I have no clue where we’re at until we get on the track and get going from there. So I don’t have a lot of ideas until we really get going and get through Friday.”

Kenseth also will be learning a new team this weekend. He said he worked an Xfinity race with crew chief Matt Puccia “many moons ago” but knows him well as a longtime Roush employee.

“I think the goals are the same as everywhere,” he said. “You want to win, you want to make everything better. I think Ricky is showing a lot of speed this year at a lot of different places. He doesn’t have all of them translated into finishes, but he’s been pretty fast at a lot of places. His team has been really good. Feels like they’re definitely on an upswing. It’s hard to evaluate a lot of that until I get really more ingrained in the system, and that’s hard to do until you get racing a few weeks.”

Though he won at Phoenix Raceway last season in his penultimate start of 2017, the expectations at Kansas will be modest for Kenseth, who joked he will “go around in circles as fast as you can. Some things never change.

“I can’t say I have a particular (finish) in mind,” he said. “Obviously I want to go there and learn as much as I can and be productive and not look stupid when you get back in the car the first time. You want the weekend to go smooth, and you want everything to go right. Especially Friday. Anything can happen on race day. I have a little bit anxiety about Friday just not being in the car and making sure everything is going to fit right, the dash is right, working with the spotter.

“All those things give you a little bit of anxious moments until you get through Friday. So I’m looking forward to getting through practice and getting qualified and getting ready to race from there.”

His record at Kansas – two wins and 13 top 10s in 24 starts on the 1.5-mile oval – also offers some confidence.

“I’d like to go there and start off strong and run strong, but it’s hard to know what to expect until you get in the car and actually drive it,” he said. “It’s impossible to even predict if we’re going to be 25th or fifth. I don’t have any idea until I get in the car and get to working on it and go from there and see where our speed is.”

Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman climb up NASCAR record book

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A bit overlooked from last weekend’s race at ISM Raceway was that both Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman moved up a spot for most consecutive Cup starts.

Both started their 580th consecutive Cup race last weekend. That moved them ahead of Ken Schrader (579 career starts) into ninth on the all-time list. Kevin Harvick has 572 consecutive starts. He’s set to pass Schrader at Kansas in May.

Next for Johnson and Newman is Mark Martin, who made 621 career Cup starts.

Jeff Gordon is the record holder with 797 consecutive starts. At this point, both Johnson, who is 42 years old, and Newman, who is 40, would need six years to reach Gordon’s mark.

To put the streak Johnson and Newman have compiled into perspective, rookies William Byron and Darrell Wallace Jr. would each need to not miss a race for 16 years to match them (provided there continues to be 36 points races a year). Both Byron and Wallace will need 22 seasons to match Gordon’s mark.

Most consecutive Cup starts 

797 – Jeff Gordon

788 – Ricky Rudd

704 – Bobby Labonte

697 – Rusty Wallace

655 – Terry Labonte

648 – Dale Earnhardt

628 – Jeff Burton

621 – Mark Martin

580 – Jimmie Johnson

580 – Ryan Newman

579 – Ken Schrader

572 – Kevin Harvick

571 – Matt Kenseth

548 – Jamie McMurray

521 – Tony Stewart

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What’s next for Matt Kenseth? Deer hunting, half marathons and gymnastics meets

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HOMESTEAD, Florida – A few dozen photographers (including his young daughters) continuously snapped pictures, Hall of Famers offered congratulations, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. stopped by to salute his good friend.

The frenzied and heartfelt prerace scene Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway for Matt Kenseth was a stark contrast to what followed what might be the last race of his career.

The 2003 champion exited his No. 20 Toyota, accepted congratulations from a few crew members and hopped up to take a seat on the pit wall while fielding three reporters’ questions.

About 50 yards down the frontstretch, a mosh pit was engulfing Earnhardt – who entered NASCAR’s premier series in the same 2000 season as Kenseth and soaked up all of the hype and fanfare. They exited in scenes Sunday night that virtually mirrored those beignnings, but of course it didn’t bother the Joe Gibbs Racing driver making the 650th Cup start

“You know me,” Kenseth said, “I’ve never been an attention seeker, but it was a really neat couple of weeks.”

Indeed, since he revealed Nov. 4 on the NASCAR on NBC podcast that he was stepping away from Cup – quite possibly for good – things have been good for Kenseth. After leading 29 laps in a fifth place finish at Texas, he broke a 51-race winless streak with a victory at Phoenix Raceway the next week.

In Sunday’s season finale, Kenseth placed eighth after running in the top five among the championship contenders for much of the race, but his surge caused no second thoughts about his decision.

“Not right now,” he said. “In a way the last 20 year has been a blur, but in another way, this has been a really long season. Last week helped a lot, but it’s been a long season, and I’m really looking forward to having a little bit of time off.

“We’ll see how I feel in July, but right now I’m looking forward to having some time off and looking forward to spending some time with my family here this next week or so and getting the banquet stuff behind me and then just getting to life.”

That starts with an annual Thanksgiving trip to Wisconsin.

“I’m looking forward to going up there and being cold and maybe go deer hunting for a couple of days and see some friends and family,” he said.

He surely will spend some time reminiscing about the 30 minutes he spent before climbing into his No. 20 Toyota for the green flag Sunday. Kenseth arrived from driver introductions with daughters Kaylin, Grace and Clara Mae and was soon joined by his wife, Katie (who is expecting another child next month) and his son, Ross. Kenseth’s sister and father also were in attendance.

During a nonstop parade of photos beside his yellow and black car, a receiving line of well wishers formed that included Jeff Gordon and Leonard Wood.

It was a prime location given that a retiring 14-time most popular driver’s No. 88 was drawing a crowd just behind Kenseth’s car.

Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and members of their teams pose for a photo after qualifying at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kenseth said Earnhardt demanded that he park his car beside his at the end of the prerace grid. Both drivers were running throwback paint schemes to their rookie seasons, prompting a dual pose beside their rides in the garage for a Friday group photo that had been set up by a phone call.

“I wanted that photo we did the other day because it’s pretty cool, so I kind of talked to him about it, and he kind of took the ball from there and told me what I had to do” about being situated at the end of the grid, Kenseth said with a laugh. I was like, ‘Nah, nah, nah, that’s your deal. You stay back there,’ and he was adamant that we be parked back there.

“Which was actually nice because we had a lot of room. We did about 25 minutes worth of pictures, which was really fun, seen a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time. So it was really cool.”

Naturally, he quickly put all the sentimentality aside when the race began.

“The prerace stuff was really fun,” he said. “So it was a really cool day, but once you start the engine, really didn’t think about anything to be honest with you, except for trying to go out and perform the best you can and trying to win that race.”

With no races on the calendar for the first time in more than two decades, Kenseth, 45, plans to focus on his expanding family (“I have three kids under 8, and we’re getting ready to have another one, so I’m not sure I’ve got time for a hobby.”) and his dedication to fitness. He has been training for a half-marathon next month and plans to enter some bike races in his age group.

“I got a lot of things I like to do, a lot of places I like to go,” he said. “I’m looking fowrad to it. The kids and the age they’re at, I’m really blessed to be able to go spend all this time with them. Anyone who has kids understands as they get older, their hobbies are your hobbies, right? So you spend a lot of time at gymnastics meets, basketball games and things like that.”